What prompted Toyota to launch the
Etios Cross, rather than a full fledged compact SUV and what are your
expectations from this car? Also, what has been the initial response for this
vehicle once you announced its pricing?
At Toyota, we believe in continuously
improving our products and the new Etios Cross is one such unique offering from
Toyota. The new Toyota Etios Cross is aimed towards targeting a whole new set
of audience- people who seek individuality in everything they do. Positioned as
a youthful yet rugged offering, we believe the Etios Cross will further
strengthen and stand a testimony to Toyota’s Quality Durability &
Reliability (QDR) in India and continue to delight our customers.
initial response to the Etios Cross has been very positive. The price has been
well accepted by customers and our bookings have further improved post the
Do you plan to also enter the
compact SUV segment, where the likes of Ford, Renault, Mahindra are enjoying
some good numbers?
No, we have no such plans at the moment.
Our focus right now is the Etios series including the new Etios Cross and its
success in India. However, we will introduce facelifts to bring in newness and
continuously incorporate customer’s valuable feedback and cater to the changing
customer requirements as and when required.
You have launched the 11th
generation Corolla. What’s been the feedback on this premium sedan?
As you had explained, this is our 11th
generation of the Corolla, the best selling global product. In India also we
have more than 45,000 happy customers. The feedback so far has been very
positive on the looks of the car. The design element has been highly
appreciated. Our new Toyota New Global Architecture Plan (TNGA) has been
applied in the Corolla Altis also.
at customer convenience and comfort, the wheelbase has been extended, where
more than 90pc has gone towards improving the rear seat comfort. The new first
in the segment would be reclining rear seat. Other than that there are touch
screen infotainment and rain sensing wipers features. Going by the response
that we have had, Corolla has been on demand with the customers—The Corolla to
a Corolla customer. The Corolla customer buying another Corolla is very common
in our industry. On this front we have seen a lot of demand for our cars. We,
on an average, have a waiting period between 45 to 60 days for this model. This
is the situation on the bookings that we have.
How stiff is competition for the
Corolla in India?
In India, the Corolla is classified as a C
segment car. This C segment over the years, especially in the last two years,
has been seeing a drop in the total number of cars sold. With more products
coming into this segment, the C segment is bound to expand. In fact it’s been
expanding in the past. This segment has been traditionally going strong. In
between it saw a little bit of slowdown. Now it is expected to go up again,
with new products coming in and also with the new Corolla Altis coming in.
Again, is the Indian passenger car
industry evolving big time?
India is a sunrise industry for automobiles
and as the market starts developing and when we transform from a developing to
a developed nation, we will see a lot of new options coming in. We have
traditionally been a small hatchback market, moving to a sedan and now moving
up. In the last five to seven years you may have noticed, models have moved
from a hatch to a larger hatch and from a sedan to a larger sedan. As things
keep evolving, and the purchasing power of the customer increases, you will see
a lot of changes like the way compact SUVs have suddenly increased in numbers.
Similarly you will see extended sedans, caravan type vehicles, etc, all coming
into the market.
But is the Indian customer still
very price sensitive?
I wouldn’t describe it as price sensitive,
rather Indian customers look for value for money. If they see value in the
price, it doesn’t mean they look at a car priced very low but for the value in
the car. If the value equation matches what they are looking for, then price is
not a point of discussion. If I have to add one more sentence, Toyota has
always been strong when it comes to value for money. The customer is looking at
the life cycle of the car. Maintenance, resale price of the car etc play an
important role. Customers are very educated now. They understand every aspect
of this, and we are seeing customers evolving and understanding this. They
don’t look at a car saying initially that its very high priced. When they
analyse factors like total maintenance cost of a car, its exchange price at a
later date, etc, then we see a lot of
people admiring and appreciating Toyota products.
Are good cars with good features
also becoming a necessity rather than a luxury?
Surely it’s happening. There was a stage
when Indian consumers would first think that he needs a job first, then needs
to buy a house and then consider buying a car. The car was considered a luxury.
But now cars have become an essential product that is used day in and day out.
People are using cars as their as their second homes in life.
There is also an increasing awareness on
safety with customers considering features like airbags, side protection, ABS,
etc before buying a car. A lot of infotainment is gaining importance because if
one looks at the average time spent in the car, for example in the city of
Bangalore, between going to office and back, a person spends as much as three
to four hours in a day in the car travelling. Thus, they are now increasingly
looking at additional features like Bluetooth, music player, etc. Infotainment
in cars is gaining a lot of importance.
Is safety a
priority in India?
In today’s situation
safety is a factor which is gaining importance. Still, I wouldn’t say, people
are ready to pay for that safety. The market is evolving. It will take some
time before customers start appreciating paying an additional price towards
As you keep moving up
the ladder in the car segment, the safety feature gains more importance. For a
small car buyer spending 4 lakh or so on a car may hesitate if he or she were
to be offered airbags and ABS at an additional cost of 40,000, for example. But
if you were to look at the Corolla segment, the top line has always been in
demand. The top line product usually offers all safety features like airbags
But again, with more
government initiatives on safety norms, the car market will evolve in India
and and other things coming, this will
evolve the market from developing to developed.
It’s not far away where you’ll see 100pc safety features coming in all
We have a new
government in place with an absolute majority in Parliament. Are you now hopeful that things will progress
It’s really good news
and the industry looks forward to it. The whole country has been waiting to see
the election results and we are also very happy to see the results that have
come. And we look forward to a positive approach from the government, which
will help the automobile industry to move up from the current negative mood. We
are looking at the government to give clear directions on growth policies. It
is not that I look forward for something for the auto industry by way of excise
and duty. The government has done that. What we want is more confidence
building activity of growth happening, industries moving towards growth. With
all the primary indicators moving positive, customers who are holding back cars
purchases will come into the market and we will see positive growth. And we are
very hopeful it will happen.